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Educators Hope for “Flexibility” in Governor Sandoval’s State of State

January 24, 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Gov. Brian Sandoval gives his first State of the State message tonight, and Nevada educators are hoping to hear what they call "practical proposals" for digging the state out of its billion-dollar-plus budget troubles. The Nevada State Education Association will be one of a number of groups holding State of the State "watch parties."

The group's new executive director, Gary Peck, says he is hoping that the governor uses the address to move beyond the entrenched "no taxes" stand Sandoval took during the campaign.

"We hope to hear a speech in which it is clear that the governor is willing to be flexible, is open to exploring ways that we might enhance the revenue side of this equation."

Teacher pay is covered by collective bargaining agreements in Nevada, so Sandoval has indicated educators would not face the five percent pay cuts he is seeking for other state workers. Peck says without new revenue, however, the schools still face big cuts, and about the only place left to cut is staff - which he warns would increase class sizes.

Pete Ernaut, a close advisor to the new governor, says the biggest education problem facing the state is its inability to remove under-performing teachers. NSEA President Lynn Warne denies that and says a system is in place that the union has helped to improve.

"We, as an organization, have actually even proposed language that is being used by our educators down in Clark County to move that process along faster. We don't want to see 'bad' teachers in the classroom any more than anyone else does."

Groups like the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada are urging the new governor and lawmakers to eliminate tax loopholes. Warne says state educators back that and other revenue-enhancing suggestions.

"Absolutely, we're currently supporting the PLAN package. We're helping the assemblywoman who is going to be moving those bills forward. The state needs to do something about funding, when you sit last in the country in per-pupil expenditure and then you are talking about additional cuts."

The Watch Party is open to media and education supporters at the office of NSEA Las Vegas, 3511 E. Harmon. More information on the legislative package is available at www.nevadavalues.org.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV